Massive 1.3MW rooftop solar system completed at Cairns DFO

Source: GEM Energy

One of Queensland’s largest commercial solar systems – and a survivor of the state’s recent battle over changes to large-scale PV installation rules – has been completed on the rooftop of the Cairns DFO.

The 1.3MW PV array was installed on an embedded network into the gateway meter at the DFO for the retail outlet’s owners, Sentinel Property Group, comprising 37 inverters and 3,250 solar panels.

The solar system is expected to provide 50 per cent of the facility’s daily electricity demand, thus halving its demand for grid supplied power.

Installer GEM Energy, said the expansive project reached practical completion in just five months – a turnaround that would not have been possible should the state government’s installation rule change have stayed in place.

GEM Energy managing director Jack Hooper was one of the commercial installers who spoke to One Step Off The Grid earlier this year, when a proposed state government rule change threatened to bring the industry to a grinding halt.

As we reported at the time, the rule, which was implemented in May before being overturned via a legal challenge, allowed only licensed electricians to mount, locate, fix or remove solar panels on projects of 100kW and above – a job previously preformed by trade assistants and labourers.

Hooper, alongside many others across the industry, fought the rule change, on the basis that it was a knee-jerk reaction to the bad practice of a handful of companies, that would make many projects unfeasible.

“What they’ve done is given us four weeks notice to change the entire makeup base of our workforce,” he told One Step in April.

“Under constriction we’ve currently got a 1.3MW project, a 790kW project, a 1.1MW project, a 911kW project and a 500kW project that will all come to a grinding halt because we’re not going to be able resource to deliver these projects.

“And the implications are dramatic. We’re looking at a 10-15 per cent increase to the capex cost of projects, and we then also don’t have the labour force to deliver them.”

To the industry’s great relief, the rule was very quickly overturned – first by the Queensland Supreme Court, and then again by the Court of Appeal – allowing major commercial projects like the Cairns DFO to go ahead unhindered.

“Queensland currently has one of the highest penetration rates of rooftop solar systems in the world,” said state member for Cairns, Michael Healy, in comments on Wednesday.

“The Queensland government is working towards significantly boosting the take up of renewable energy sources and we are delighted that Sentinel Property Group is providing clean energy to DFO Cairns.”

Sentinel Property Group managing director Warren Ebert said he believes the DFO now has the fifth biggest roof mounted system in the state, and 14th largest nationwide.

“We expect this system will halve the complex’s daily power usage while also contributing to the environment by reducing greenhouse gases,” Mr Ebert said.

“Sentinel’s DFO system alone will produce 5.2 megawatts per day which will equate to 2.86 tonnes of saving in carbon dioxide per day.”

Ebert said Sentinel was investing heavily in renewable energy and planned to adopt solar power systems across much of its property portfolio.

“Solar is one of the cleanest sources of energy and we will able to run our DFO retail complex in a more efficient and sustainable manner while providing clean energy to DFO Cairns and its retailers,” he said.

“By reducing greenhouse gases, improving air quality and conserving our water supply, solar energy assists in the reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels and will lower energy prices for years to come.”

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